BP mulls feds order on spills

Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ANCHORAGE - BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. is reviewing a federal order that calls for sweeping changes in response to the record crude oil spill on Alaska's North Slope, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

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Among problems noted in the corrective order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration was the "ineffectiveness of the leak detection system to identify the leak" in the Prudhoe Bay transit line.

The five-page document also noted that a post-spill inspection of the 30-year-old pipeline found several flaws, including an area of the 0.375-inch wall worn ultra thin by internal corrosion.

Officials believe crude was leaking for at least five days from a small corrosion hole in the line before the spill was discovered March 2 by a worker who smelled the oil.

Crews are cleaning up the two-acre spill, which is estimated at up to 267,000 gallons. Slowed by bitter cold, they have recovered 63,546 gallons - or 1,513 barrels - of crude.

The pipeline safety agency, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said BP must review the leak detection system on the affected line as well as two other crude transit pipelines in Prudhoe, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

The company must make necessary modifications within three months.

BP officials are studying their options on how to proceed, according to company spokesman Daren Beaudo.

"We haven't decided on what action, if any, to take," he said.

The company has until the end of the week to request a hearing on the matter, said James Wiggins, a spokesman for the federal agency.

Officials with the Alaska Department of Conservation said the spill will lead to fines against BP and possibly stricter regulations for such transit lines, which have been subject to little government scrutiny in the past.



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